We are taught in grade school English to always help our verbs as if they were unable to stand alone, that they are defective in some way. But it’s not true. Verbs can stand alone.

The verb Be is a the state of being. Conjugated forms be, are is, are, am, we, was, were, been, being

Helping verbs: to be (see above); to have: have, has, had; to do: do, does, did,

Conditionals: could, should, would, can shall, will, may, might, must

To be + —ing : when using a to be or helping with a word ending  —ing it means the following: Your character is performing an action and/or performing an action while doing something else. i.e. “Let me tell you something,” she said as she was washing the dishes.

When you write with these verbs, you make your sentences passive or what they call passive writing. You make your sentences longer. If you’re writing fiction, you want action. So, the next time you go through your WIP, check out how many times you use a passive verb. But, not only that, how many words were able to delete?

Now when you’re writing, you cannot get away completely without using helping verbs or passive verbs. So, when should you:

  • Review the To be + —ing
  • Downplay the action
  • When you want to tell instead of showing
  • Slow down the pace
  • Style
  • When you don’t know who did the action
  • When the person who did action isn’t important
  • When you want your reader to focus on the object of the action

So, what will you choose?

Book Recommendations

How to Swat the Killer Be’s Out of Your Writing by Nancy Owens Barnes

Fire Up Your Fiction Jodie Renner

Hex, Vex, Smash, Smooch: Let Verbs Power Your Writing by Constance Hale

Sin and Syntax: How to Craft A wicked Good Prose by Constance Hale